Protecting Children Online

Over the last two days I have had the privilege of participating in a summit of industry experts to look at innovative ways that technology can help prevent online sexual abuse of children. The event, organised by WeProtect, brought together over 80 individuals from around 40 companies to look at the threats and how they can be addressed.

It was great to see so many competitor organisations putting their differences to one side, leaving their company affiliations (and egos) at the door and instead working together, as individuals to come up with solutions to these very real threats to our children, not just in the UK, but globally. There were some fantastic and inspiring ideas generated that I hope we can build on and, as an industry, start to deliver over the coming months.

Of course, as expected some of these solutions are not overnight fixes and there is no silver bullet to solve this problem (or it would have been done already). However, there were some very pragmatic, tactical solutions that are eminently achievable without hvaing to move mountains.

It was a real honour to work with my industry colleagues at this event on such a difficult and emotive subject that everyone at the event was so passionate about. It’s time like this when I am really proud of the work that the collaboration of great minds can produce.

England no-smoking law

As of 1st July, the no-smoking ban was introduced in England meaning that it is illegal to smoke in all public “enclosed” spaces. This is one of the best pieces of legislation brought in by the government.

However, whilst I support this law (as a non-smoker), there is a fundamental flaw in the policy. What I now find is that all the people who were smoking in enclosed places now have to stand outside to smoke. Therefore, in order to get into most building, you have to walk through a wall of smoke on the way in and on the way out.

Surely, there must be a better approach!

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View on the recent floods

Over the past couple of weeks, the UK has faced some terrible flooding across, mainly, several parts of England. Apparently we have had the equivalent of 2 months rain within 2 days. In case you haven’t seen the pictures, click here. Fortunately, where I live hasn’t been directly affected. However, several towns close by have been including Doncaster, Sheffield and Hull. The worst hit seems to be Hull in which 16,000 (1 in 5) houses have been affected.

Now that the flood waters have subsided the huge cleanup task begins.

On the news last night, a lady from Hull was meeting her local MP (and ex-Deputy PM, John Prescott) together with the Floods Minister (I didn’t know we had one). Other than the obvious PR exercise, the MPs were apparently assessing the damage to then work out how to deal with it. However, the main gripe on the woman was that she didn’t have house insurance and therefore wanted the Government to put their hands in their pockets and start allocating money to people like her. She argued that we give billions of pounds to foreign countries for any number of reasons and now she felt that we were having a disaster and therefore we need the money within this country. Whilst I can see her point about foreign aid, I do have to take issue with her reasons for requesting money.

Home insurance, like any insurance is designed to protect against the unexpected (e.g. floods). You have to question people who don’t have home insurance. Houses are typically our most expensive purchase throughout our lives, so why wouldn’t you insure it? Its not like you can pop out and buy another with cash if it breaks (well most of us can’t). Why should the UK taxpayer fund her cleanup because she didn’t have insurance.

However, I do think that they Government has a part to play in such disasters as this. I categorically don’t think that they should be funding the cleanup for people who don’t have insurance. However, short term aid such as shelter, emergency clothing, food etc should be provided by the Government to enable people to get over the immediate disaster so that they can start putting their own plans in place for recovery.

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Identity Crisis

After recommendations on their blogs from Dick Hardt and Phil Windley, I recently finished reading Identity Crisis by Jim Harper.

Phil gives a very good summary of the book here.

I was very impressed with the book from start to finish and found it hard to put down. It started off fairly light talking about the different types of identifiers that we have but then moved onto some very hot identity topics (especially prevelant in the UK at the moment) such as National ID cards. The book had some very good analogies which helped to explain topics or put them into context.

Jim lays out some very strong arguments for why Identification shouldn’t be the ‘default’ behaviour.

If you are looking for a book to read, I would highly recommend it.

Isn’t the English language strange

My oldest daughter has just started her 2nd year at primary school. During the past year I have been trying to help her learn to read. Like many other parents I have sat there, usually over breakfast, trying to help her master those tricky words. As is the common approach, when we reach a word she doesn’t know, we try and break it down into syllables, sound each syllable and then put them together. I find that whilst this works fine for some words there seems to be more and more words that this approach doesn’t work for.

Its made me realise how completely illogical a lot of written English is! For lots of words there is no pattern to being able to learn them, it is just a case of ‘knowing’ how it is spelt, or how a certain word should be pronounced. I could list numerous words that demonstrate this effectively but to pick a fairly simple one from my niece’s spelling list:

circle

How do you teach a child the logic behind spelling circle (or even reading it). I don’t even think the problem is just limited to children. Even today (stopping myself going onto Google now to find out the answer) I can never remember whether organisation or organization is the English spelling as opposed to the American.

I think in some areas Americans are closer to a more sensible approach than the English are. Take comparable words:

colour translates to color
theatre translates to theater
analogue translates to analog

The above American spellings remove what I see as the unnecessary letters and makes the words more phonetic.

There has been talk for some time (I’m not sure how far it has progressed) about teaching phonetic spellings in our schools and making words appear more as they sound. I see this as a major leap forward for the English education system. In my opinion, something needs to be done to update the language that is used by so many people worldwide.

As a side, my 9 year old niece can now finally spell circle. Next on the list……circumference (good luck)!!

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I don’t usually do Politics but………………..Asylum Seekers and Crime

Following on from my previous post about benefits freeloaders, my other big gripe with the government is laws concerning asylum seekers.

Aside from the fact that I believe we are way too “Immigrant Friendly” in this country there is one particular law which I find unbelievable. As it currently stands, if an asylum seeker commits a crime in this country we will NOT deport them back to their own country if they are to face violence or are in fear of their lives through persecution.

Now, I understand why we wouldn’t send back a normal failed asylum seeker back to their country of origin if they were to face persecution but a convicted criminal, surely not. I think they the act of committing a crime and being found guilty of that crime should waiver any protection that our laws provide them from deportation.

This may seem a little harsh but I firmly believe that it would not only cut the level of crime, but also encourage asylum seekers to respect our laws and society and live by our rules.

I don’t usually do Politics but………………..Asylum Seekers and Crime

Following on from my previous post about benefits freeloaders, my other big gripe with the government is laws concerning asylum seekers.

Aside from the fact that I believe we are way too “Immigrant Friendly” in this country there is one particular law which I find unbelievable. As it currently stands, if an asylum seeker commits a crime in this country we will NOT deport them back to their own country if they are to face violence or are in fear of their lives through persecution.

Now, I understand why we wouldn’t send back a normal failed asylum seeker back to their country of origin if they were to face persecution but a convicted criminal, surely not. I think they the act of committing a crime and being found guilty of that crime should waiver any protection that our laws provide them from deportation.

This may seem a little harsh but I firmly believe that it would not only cut the level of crime, but also encourage asylum seekers to respect our laws and society and live by our rules.

I don’t usually do politics but………………..State Benefits

Politics in the traditional sense has never really interested me. Like a lot of other people, I exercise my right to vote (although the numbers of voters seem to be dwindling each year). However, beyond my vote, I, like all other tax payers are at the mercy of whatever hair-brain ideas the government has on how best to screw more money out of me (and other working class people) and give it to either immigrants or dodgy benefits claimants.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people claiming benefits who REALLY need the money for genuine reasons (e.g. illness, temporary redundancy etc), but it annoys me when we hear huge figures touted around about the extent of benefit fraud. A prime example is couples who have a gazillion kids, are too lazy to work and as a result live off the huge amount of benefit they are given from the state. THEN they have the audacity to complain to their local council that their council house is too small to house their family. These people are a drain on society. The problem is compounded by the great benefits system we seem to have in the UK. We don’t seem to want to encourage people to return to work.

I think there is a really simple solution to this problem……..cap certain benefits!

The government should introduce a law which states that the state will provide benefits (child benefit, tax credits etc) for up to 3 children. After that, couples are still free to have as many children as they want but they get no more state benefit. Therefore, in effect, you must be able to support your own children if you decide to have a large family.

That way it would limit the amount of money we are giving these people.

End of rant part 1!!!!!